Joseph C. Tebo: His Story as told to his Daughter

My father served in the Philippines as part of the Infantries’ 41st Division, 162nd Regiment, C Company. Patrolling the jungles by day. Sleeping in fox holes near the perimeter at night. He witnessed great human courage and the worst of what humans can be. When the war ended he became part of the occupying forces in Japan. Throughout his life he didn’t talk much about that. It wasn’t until near the end of his life on a sunny afternoon as I arrived in his hospital room that I found him staring out the window in deep thought.

 

My father faced everything head on. No turning away. He fought back when he was hit by a devastating stroke and then fought his final battle with the heart disease that would in a matter of a few months, take his life. On that afternoon we talked about many things, but there was something he especially wanted to convey. He knew that often children of a deceased parent would write or say something about that parent’s life at a funeral service. he wanted the truth said about him, and there was one story that hardly anyone knew about, but after he was gone he asked it be told This is his story.

 

It was late in August of 1945 when my Father left the Philippines and became part of the occupying troops sent to Japan. The atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The War was over. He said it was the most terrible thing he ever saw. Twisted steel was the only thing remaining in a city that was otherwise reduced to dust. He was sent to the4 city of Kuri, 15 miles outside Hiroshima. He was an MP and on duty at the railroad station. He hadn’t been on duty long that night when an American soldier ran up and yelled for him to come immediately to the square. A Japanese man with a weapon was threatening to kill everyone. My father knew that leaving his post while on guard duty could be cause for court martial. He was not a man to disobey orders but at that moment he felt it was important to go to the square and help. The square was jammed with Japanese civilians and one Japanese police officer. The officer pointed to a small building off the square and in sign language told him the man with the weapon had run up to the second floor. My Father and the Japanese officer entered the building. There was a ladder leading up to a dark opening and into the second story. The officer bowed politely to my father, pointed at him and then up the ladder. It was clear who he hoped would go first. My father knew that at the top of the ladder he might be met with a bullet in his head. And he also knew that the man hiding up there was dangerous and might open fire on people below at any moment. He climbed the ladder, pistol drawn, the Japanese cop following with a dim flashlight. He peered over the top of the ladder. As his eyes adjusted to the dark, he could see that the second floor was packed with bicycles. He crawled over and through bicycles until he felt the Japanese policeman tugging on his jacket. He pointed under some bikes piled in a corner. There was the man they were looking for. My father yelled at him “gun, gun” as he ripped bikes out of the way trying to get to him. The man screamed “ni” and in fact had thrown his weapon to the opposite corner. My father grabbed him and got him down the ladder as the MP jeep patrol drove up. They arrested the Japanese man and took him away. The crowds of Japanese civilians quieted down as my father returned to the railroad station and his post.

 

The next morning the Company Clerk came to his tent and told him the Company Commander wanted to see him. On his way to the Commander’s tent he felt nothing but trouble ahead. He walked in but didn’t even get a chance to salute before the Commander told him he had heard what my Father had done the night before. The Commander said it was an act of bravery and that he was sending down to regiment a recommendation for a citation. My father thanked him and went back to his tent.

 

Two days later my father was on a train to the seaport of Nygoia, Japan. Then he came home. He didn’t know what happened to the citation. Perhaps things just got lost or were undone in the confusion. But more importantly, there is this story. A story of my father surviving many years of war and in the midst of a land that weeks before represented the enemy, he had put his life in harm way, not to wage war, but to save innocent lives. He wanted us to know.